Examined as a bizarre, brilliant pastiche, the whole of the autumn arts season is greater than the sum of its parts. Traditional jazz music mingles with contemporary-jazz dance performances, Pulitzer Prize-winning plays debut locally, and sarcasm stretches its legs via standup and comedic theater.
It all starts with a reboot of the smooth sounds of jazz label Blue Note Records courtesy of the Webster University Faculty Jazz Ensemble. It dips into the label's expansive repertoire with Cool Struttin': Soulful Sounds From Blue Note Records on Monday, September 10, from 7 to 8 p.m. at Moore Auditorium. Later that week, MADCO presents Outburst, a glimpse into the company's creative minds at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. For this piece, MADCO executive and artistic director Stacy West swings the door wide open, allowing dancers the freedom to coordinate their own choreography to deeply passionate, strikingly personal results.
Alternatively, a collection of rug-cuttin' will occur on Saturday, September 29, at the Dancing in the Street Festival in Grand Center. Three outdoor stages will feature a diverse number of dance disciplines, from hip-hop and break-dancing to tap, ballet, modern and jazz, and cultural styles such as salsa, belly, clog and Bollywood. The festival's footprint lands on Grand Boulevard between Lindell and Delmar boulevards.
Collaborative spirits unite at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Friday, October 5, for PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons, a partnership among four celebrated choreographers, four local professional dance companies and four world premieres. The production finds artists and performers from Saint Louis Ballet, Leverage Dance Theater, MADCO and Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company coming together to share their talents in a show commissioned and produced by Dance St. Louis.
Jumping over life's hurdles and emerging wiser also just so happens to be the narrative of playwright Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning Lost in Yonkers, which makes its debut at the New Jewish Theatre on Thursday, October 4. Set in rough-and-tumble Yonkers, New York, in 1942, Simon's famed comic drama unfurls the coming-of-age stories of brothers Jay and Arty as they struggle to understand their family and places in the world.
While New Dance Horizons marks the interconnected, comedian Louis C.K. strikes out on a tour defined by independence, shirking ticketing-service agencies and selling seats to his shows exclusively through his website. A man who approaches comedy and business on his own terms, with an ever-present emphasis on art and integrity, C.K. promises scalped tickets will be canceled to ensure his fans all pay a flat fee. The star — and creator, director, writer, editor and producer — of FX's Louie stops in St. Louis on Saturday, October 6, to perform two sets at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at the Fox Theatre.
Feats flaunting another brand of daring fly through St. Charles on Saturday, October 13, when the National Circus of the People's Republic of China presents Cirque Chinois at Lindenwood University. The circus troupe from Beijing — one of the oldest and longest running in China — beguiles with acts including contortion, juggling, flying and balance.
On Friday, October 19, St. Louis' newest contemporary jazz-dance ensemble presents a full-length production at Casa Loma Ballroom, Big Muddy Dance Company in Concert. Though in its infancy, the company brings professional and technical talent through a jazz filter to the St. Louis performing-arts scene. The concert is followed by live music by Miss Jubilee.
For something completely different, the gut-achingly hilarious touring comedy show Cinematic Titanic sails into the Family Arena on Saturday, November 17. Presented by the creators and original cast of cult darling TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, Cinematic Titanic starts where MST3K left off, offering a "feature-length movie-riffing show" with the likes of Joel Hodgson and the actors behind Crow, Tom Servo, Pearl Forrester and more. At press time the movie of choice hasn't been announced, but check Cinematic Titanic's website closer to the event date for further information.
When curio shop and DIY artist space Cranky Yellow closed its doors in September 2011 due to mounting issues and misunderstandings with the City of St. Louis, it told the RFT it planned to keep aspects of its brand moving forward. The absence of this one-of-a-kind space hasn't gone unnoticed, and this October, Cranky Yellow rises again with the launch of a new visual-arts online community called "YOU." The project curates and connects artists, writers and musicians from across the globe, offering a creative outlet to share their work with the Cranky Yellow community. Join the re-energized Crankys at www.crankyyellow.com/get-involved.
GET UP, STAND UP
Anyone can Tweet a clever 140-character quip, but who among the many can poignantly hit a nerve and achieve true hilarity? Real, live, decent (and very indecent) comedy does precisely that, and St. Louis' Improv Shop fosters that excellent brand of humor. The local outfit is comprised of a small army of dedicated enthusiasts who are, in all fairness, quite serious about their jokes. Through its classes and performances Kevin McKernan and Andy Sloey mold stumbling, giggly, farting buffoons into dashing, charming, now hilariously farting buffoons.
Since the group's inception in 2009, there's been no shortage of novices salivating at the mouth to perform or audiences antsy to watch. The Improv Shop hosts a steady calendar of improv events, including a bimonthly long-form showcase. Here sketches are allowed to go on and on, sometimes passing the point of funny and dipping well into the realm of deliciously awkward; students of the art of improv learn when to intervene on a joke that's being beaten to death or to revisit a subtle comment made in an earlier sketch.
With its ever-growing popularity, the Improv Shop occasionally needs to stretch its legs in a venue larger than the community theaters and clubs it typically occupies. In an upward move worthy of George Jefferson, its performance on Wednesday, October 10, will be held at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The special guest of the evening is Armando; well, to be fair that is the format of the show, and the namesake of the form is merely present in spirit. It starts with a suggestion given to a performer who then begins an improvised monologue based on that suggestion. As the monologue becomes more involved and delves deeper into the actual story, scenes are created with a group of performers who base their lines on the ideas presented in the earlier monologue. Hilarity ensues, and when it ends, the audience leaves thinking, "Wow. No one does anything like this." Except, of course, for the Improv Shop.— Nicole Beckert